17 May 2021

A Mildly Complex View of a Few Things You Can Do LESS of to Get MORE - Update

 

Art Model, Susan ©2013 Terrell Neasley

"It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential." 
 –Bruce Lee
Check this out. I wanna cover a few details of some things of note that I believe can help transform you into a better shooter. It may not make sense right off the bat, but stick with me. I think you will be helped by do LESS of these things:

Ignore TV... Less!
What you see on TV is the final product of someone's content creation efforts. You can learn a plethora of information by observing what images made the final cut. Check out all the lighting schemes, posing, and final edits that you see. How effective do you think they were? What message do they convey and how successful do you feel they were at getting your attention at evoking an emotion in you to act on whatever they were selling, promoting, or entertaining you.

We often times get left in the dust with recent trends. TV gives you an idea of what some of the latest technology is doing and how its being creatively implemented. You succeed when you can begin to backwards engineer what you see. Figure out how its done and get ideas on what techniques or best practices you can employ in your own work. At the very least, you can see what the everyone else is doing and how you might differentiate yourself. Know what's happening around you and do something different. You don't always have to follow what the latest favorite is doing. In fact, I highly recommend it.

Art Model, Susan ©2013 Terrell Neasley


Watch TV... LESS!
All to often, the thing that can hamper us most is Television. We'll have at least 3 TV's in the house to keep us updated on our favorite shows, like the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or Dragon Ball Super. People can go nuts over these programs. Sheesh... Back Away From the Idiot Box! I say that in jest, but don't get caught up in TV, too much.

If you can back away from some of the ad-laced content for a while, check out a book on photo for a change. Learn about some new night shooting techniques. Go watch an educational video on Lightroom. There are plenty of free stuff out there, but I'm sure you've heard the old adage... "You get what you pay for". Maybe try a paid subscription service to up your game a little bit. I've always advocated pulling out your camera's manual and familiarizing yourself with features you had no idea existed, right there at your fingertips. And then go practice with it.


Study... LESS!
Here's a new one. Get your head out of the books and go SHOOT! Study long...Study wrong is what my Uncle Sly used to tell me when playing basketball. The more you contemplate your shot, the more likely you're gonna miss it. Never more true. Paralysis by Analysis. There's only so much you can fill your brain with at one time. Most of the time, what you really need is to put the books down and go pick up the camera and just shoot! Experiment. Who learned to ride a bike with a book? What person researched the mechanics of swimming before jumping in the water? Some things you learn by doing.

Yes, some research, study, reading, and observation is good for us. But at some point, you have to put it all down and let your mind and muscles work together with repetition and effort to finally learn something new. Go shoot! I can't emphasis that enough. Studying something too long is a huge contributor to procrastination. I know for fact this is speaking to some of you out there. Its time now to put to practice some of the brilliant things you've learned. Go for it.

Art Model, Susan ©2013 Terrell Neasley


"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful." 
–John Maeda

Shoot... LESS!
You got that right. Shoot a whole lot less! I've worked with some students that I tell to shoot MORE. The vast majority of you, however, should shoot LESS. This is one case where LESS is truly MORE. The spray and pray concept of photography is only applicable in sports and other jobs where capturing the decisive moment requires advanced anticipation and a fast shutter. Shooting at 14 frames per second to capture the money shot of Russell Wilson escaping the clutches of a NFC West defender showing the look on the guy's face as that split second passes where he KNEW he had the sack, then nothing but air. Yeah...you can't try to time that shot and expect to get anything. No way. You select the drive mode for Hi-Continuous and you roll like Rambo.

When you come back with 30,000 images from a weekend camping trip, just know that you have a problem. Stop friggin' shooting so much! If you want to immediately have an impact on better photography, shoot less! Limit yourself and become more selective about what you are taking a picture of. And there's no need to get 12 versions of the same shot. All you're really looking for are a few good shots that tell the story or deliver the message. Personally, I'm a 10%er. It roughly averages out to editing a tenth of whatever I shoot. I come back from a gig with 300 images...I'm netting about 30 edited shots. I believe I usually shoot about 100 shots an hour when I'm doing constant shooting. That means I'm on a gig or have a photographic purpose in mind and when I'm finished shooting, I go home. So that's different from going on a day trip with my girlfriend and we're on the road for 15 hours. I may only come home with 200 images total because we are shooting, but we're also hiking and exploring and shooting between locations.

Art Model, Susan ©2013 Terrell Neasley


It saves you some time having to cull a million shots, but more importantly, WE DON'T WANT TO, NOR DO WE HAVE TIME TO LOOK AT EVERY-FRIGGIN' SHOT YOU TOOK! So just calm down a bit. Play the roll of a sniper instead of Machine Gun Freddie. Take some time to look at your composition and understand what makes it a good shot vs a snapshot by a tourist. You didn't buy that expensive camera to come back with the same kind of shots you've always been taking. Get to know the camera. Take if off automatic and get creative with it. Shoot less, but maybe more often. How's that for a compromise. Now, you have some things to mull over. Get to it.

05 May 2021

Why the Camera You Already Have May Be Better Than You Think: Updated Repost

Anonymous Model, Copyright 2014 Terrell Neasley

"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."

I'm a Sony shooter. I started out years ago with Canon. And when Canon no longer suited my needs, I sold about $25K in Canon gear...all of it...and switched to Nikon. Three years after that, (#switchhappens) I made the plunge again into the Sony line of camera systems and will likely be here a while. I welcome the moniker, "gear-head", but I can objectively say I made all my changes based on need. When Canon's next line of cameras came out and it didn't give me what I needed, I had no qualms about dropping that line and investing in another. Nikon's switch had more to do with dropping the DSLR line because I was sold on mirrorless systems, namely Sony, but originally Fujifilm (XE-2, remember...).

Anonymous Model, Copyright 2014 Terrell Neasley


But here's the deal. Not everyone wants to drop camera lines like that, especially if you have a huge investment in the lenses. Or, getting another camera simply isn't in the budget at the moment. It's sorta like a used car that you've put so much effort, money, and time into that you gotta get the most you can out of the car you have. I think it might help a few of you to know that the camera you have right now, is probably better than you think. You may not have the same photo demands or feature needs as I do and if you don't require all that then here are a few things you can look into.

If you have purchased a camera in the last 10 years, even a DSLR, then chances are, it's actually a really good system for general purpose use. I've met PLENTY of people complaining that they can't get a good picture from their camera, when in fact, all they need is a little bit of knowledge on how the camera works. Take a look at Auto Focus. I think this is likely the most frequent issue I encounter. Blurry images account for the chief complaints, but incorrect AF is only one probable cause.

Anonymous Model, Copyright 2014 Terrell Neasley


With the Auto Focus situation, its usually a case where the camera is set to full auto. So in this setting, it's automatic everything. The problem here is that sometimes the camera will automatically focus lock on the object closest to the camera or to a subject that is moving. The camera operator has an image with SOME things in focus, but not the thing or subject that they wanted to take a picture of. In this case, taking the camera out of Full Auto mode should be the first step. If anything put the camera in Program or "P" mode. Then take out your manual (download it from the net if need be) and look up how to use center-point AF. This allows you to point at whatever you want to focus on and the camera locks on that one thing. If you're brave enough, check out Manual Focus. Camera manufacturers my call each thing something different. Canon is AF-Single and AI Servo/AI Servo-Continuous. Nikon is AF-S, or AF-C. Then they may go into autofocus zones or groupings in some way.

The other blurring I mentioned is when the subject is blurred or the entire picture is blurred because a slow shutter speed setting than AF. There are two things that might determine this. First could be the shutter speed itself. If the camera perceives that it doesn't have enough light, it will extend the amount of time the shutter is open and expose the sensor to light for a little longer period of time. Well, unless everything is absolutely still, there will be blurring. A single second is actually a LONG time when we're talking photography. Its nigh impossible to hold your camera still that long and not get blur just from camera shake, much less have your subject be still enough. Try shooting a baby with a one-second shutter speed.

Art Model Que, Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley


If this is the case and you are in Program mode, look to your ISO speed and raise it till your shutter speed automatically moves at least 1/60th of a second on shutter speed. You'll usually have this issue when it begins to get dark and you're still trying to shoot pics of the kids outdoors. Sometimes, if you're in full auto, the flash will pop up and blast everything with light and that doesn't look good in most cases. Raise that ISO to 800 or maybe even 1600 and try again. Go higher if need be. But there is a catch! The higher the ISO, the more grainy or noisy the image looks.

I had to make my first camera upgrade from the Canon 40D (2007) to the full frame 5D Mark II (2008) for this reason. I required better low-light performance. The 5D Mark II had a bigger sensor which means bigger light-gathering pixels. It also had the ability to handle higher ISO much better resulting in high-ISO images, but with less noise in the image. Today, I work in much darker situations that still require speed and I can reach ISOs of over 100,000 and still look clean in my Sony systems.

Art Model Que, Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley


Sometimes, a better lens can be your limitation. If you still rock with the kit lens your camera came with, its likely not going to be the best quality and is likely not fast glass. If you're Canon, try the Nifty Fifty, the 50mm f/1.8 lens for a little over $100. And for zoom lenses, I absolutely love Tamron's line-up whether you are Canon or Nikon. Tamron makes a 17-50mm f/2.8 (for crop sensor cameras) or a 28-75mm f/2.8 (for full frame or crop sensor cameras) of which both are excellent pieces of fast glass. Those lenses have wide maximum apertures that help let in more light. If you have newer cameras, I'd even suggest the all in one Tamron 16-300mm lens (not made for full frame cameras). Just make sure you get the Tamron lens specific for your camera, either Canon or Nikon.

In any case, learning a little bit more about your camera outside of the full auto mode can work to your favor and get you better shots. When your demands surpass the camera's capabilities, THEN look to a better system. Getting a camera with numerous Phase-Detect Auto focus points because you often shoot moving subjects is a reason to upgrade. Having a system with superior low-light performance because you do a lot of low-light work is a reason to upgrade. Or maybe convenience features like built-in WIFI for the ability to control the camera or download your images from your camera straight to your smart phone, swivel the LCD screen around for selfies, have a touch-screen LCD, you have a 4K TV and want to shoot 4K video, or you want to be able to continuously autofocus while doing video. It could be that you like your friend's ability to autofocus using Face-detect/Smile-detect/Eye-detect. Or you love shooting manual focus and heard how cool the Sony system can use Focus Peak to assist with manual focus. These are all reasons to upgrade. If your camera is simply not taking good pics, then chances are you could benefit from reading the manual, because cameras these days are actually bad ass.

Art Model Que, Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley


16 April 2021

Three Life Skills I Learn with Photography

What makes photography such a strange invention is that its raw materials are Light and Time

~ John Berger

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

Let me just dive into this:

Learning New Things

Of course, this article must begin with the universal agreement that life if full of lessons and when we stop learning, we stop living. So yes... photography has afforded me the opportunity to constantly learn new things and thus, stay alive. Rarely a day has gone by where I am not learning something about photography gear, techniques, lighting, or the business of it. I even learn when I teach. It's hard to know everything there is to know about photography. You can be an expert, a professional, or a popular speaker on the subject and there is still so much more to take in. 

I recall Richard Harrington of Photofocus, who spoke with me after one of his classes at Photoshop World. It caught me off guard, because he was asking about my opinions. He wasn't there trying to "bless" people with his wisdom, but rather to impart knowledge while seeking different ideas for his own improvement. I dig that. Keep learning. Stay on top of your game. READ! Sign up for online workshops on that one thing you are weakest at. Teach the things you are strong on. 

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley


Learning How to Mitigate Mistakes

In life, mistakes are inevitable. Sometimes, you can play it off and act like nothing's the matter. Other times, you are forced to own up to it, reshoot, or admit defeat. The real trick is to minimize those mistakes. One of the constant lessons throughout my time on Earth has been to practice, rehearse, and learn more in order to make the big mistakes early. With investing, you may screw up and lose all your money. But losing all your money early on, when you have $1,000 to your name is much easier than losing $100,000 later on in your career. 

I like to spend hella time practicing, experimenting, and exploring ideas to see what works. It helps me be creative and spot new ideas. Not everything pans out, but you learn from it. I learn most from models who let me experiment and sometimes nothing comes out the way I planned. Nevertheless, they are patient with me and allow me to take chances and see what happens. Aren't there also times when you took a hit because of a mistake and then it somehow turned into a blessing? I owned up to a problem with a client once regarding equipment failure that was my fault. Thankfully, it was a multi-location project shot over several days, so I requested a reshoot on one of them. She appreciated my honesty and recommended me to her friend on a higher paying gig. Acknowledge a problem, but fix it and then blow their minds! Sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and work with what you have. With the right attitude, you can still come out on top. So mitigate mistakes with practice so that you can avoid big mistakes later in your career.

"Life is a lot like jazz... it's best when you improvise."

George Gershwin

Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley


Learning to Appreciate Different Perspectives

Everybody sees the same thing differently than you do. Good photography is all about composition. Good composition is all about perspective. We can shoot the same thing with identical cameras and you may key on one thing and I, another. You might shoot wide-angle while I prefer telephoto. Or maybe I want to shoot a scene at night and use artificial lights. Regardless, just because someone has a different perspective than you do, that doesn't make them wrong. Not only that, they're perspective on the same subject might be as beautiful as yours, yet their shine does not diminish your own. In many respects, we can shine together and uplift the craft of photography. Is not life like this?

A different perspective came come from anywhere or anyone. I learn so much from models I shoot. Many of them actively lend to my projects and some show me something I didn't originally see they weren't even trying to do so. You just never know where that next brilliant idea or concept might come from. All I'm saying is keep your mind open. Listen. Try to see. All the great ideas don't only originate in the shower. 


Art Model, Alisia Copyright 2020 Terrell Neasley

A list of 3 things is definitely not all there is to know about the different life skills photography can teach. I am still cultivating the art of storytelling in my work. In addition to that you get experience with social skills, leadership, mentorship, how to start/run a business, and making something sellable from abstract space from which you can earn a living. Photography has been a blessing to me and when this thing is done, I hope I can say I have given something back to it. 

31 March 2021

Recalling My Trip to Argentina: Adventures in Ushuaia 2019

 


Back in January, I said I would revisit and share some more of my experiences in Argentina with you guys. I didn't talk about this part of my trip much, but I had 3 main hardships to contend with while I was there. However, I want you to understand that the bulk of my experiences were positive and my overall impression about Ushuaia is that I must do this again!

I spent two months in Argentina, October and November of 2019, flying there from Peru. Only 3 days were spent in Buenos Aires, after which I flew down to Ushuaia at the southern most tip of Argentina, in the region most commonly referred to as Patagonia. 

Though I had initially tried to avoid it, I arrived just before a late season snowstorm blanketed the area. I stayed in a bed and breakfast owned by my new friend, Javier. His place is located on the outskirts of town in the woods at the foot of the mountain. Beautiful place! It was a unique experience to boots deep in snow one day and then to have spring pop out as if it was spring-loaded the next week. One week, it's all white and the next week was luscious green. 


Problem 1- Currency Exchange Rate and ATM fees

As soon as I got to Ushuaia, I became rudely aware of one major thing. I'll put it this way. I went to an ATM in Buenos Aires to withdraw $260 in Argentine Pesos. The exchange rate and fee was so outrageous, I was certain I had just did the math wrong in my head. I accepted the fact that it might be expensive, BUT, I had to get the money. Peru was charging me $7 at the ATM for each transaction. Surely, this could not be as bad as that. 

I was wrong. Sooo WRONG! To get $260 out of the ATM, it cost me $50! I realized this the next day when I checked my bank account. Crazy!! I knew I had a problem on my hands, but then again... this is Argentina. I'll just use my card.


Problem 2 - Bank Account Hack

Upon arriving in Ushuaia, I saw 2 charges on my account for about $800. Damn. Okay. I called the bank and let them know. Instead of shutting down just the one account, they shut them all down. They apologized afterwards and got me fixed back up again. The problem came when they tried to send me new cards. It took THREE weeks. WHY? Mainly due to some misunderstandings in customs. The shipping fees should have been covered, but I never got any notices that my envelop packages with my cards were being held for the sake of $1. When I never arrived, the envelops got returned to the sender. At the end of October, my situation was finally resolved and I got my cards. 

Problem 3 - Severe Knee Injury

The Vinciguerra Glacier is a beautiful hike. I had never been on a glacier before. A few days earlier, I had taken a boat tour that dropped us off at a Harberton Ranch about 40 miles to the east. We toured the property, explored a trail, and visited the Acatushun Marine Museum showcasing several whale skeletons and that of other marine life in the area.

I've had two surgeries on my left knee from a military injury and I've been told I will eventually need a replacement. I was told to take it easy. Maybe the YOLO in me kicked in and I couldn't help myself. My knee held up fine, although much of this was easy walking, no heavy packs, and gentle slopes. This was not the case for Vinciguerra. We're talking only 700 meters of elevation, but it's STEEP! I hiked this as the temps were rising. The snow melt made the way up pretty darn muddy and quite taxing. I was a champ on the flat ground. Once we started the ascent, I was a lame billy goat ready to be put to pasture. 


Nonetheless, I was determined to make it... and that cost me. I was so weak on the way back down, there was one point near the top I had to descend on steep rocky scree. I asked God for his assistance, let everyone else go ahead of me, made my peace with my life and did my best. Oh, I forgot to mention there was a sheer cliff to my immediate left. One slip and it'd be over. All that concentration for each step to make deliberate controlled motions was also mentally taxing. My knee screamed with each step, but I had to eventually give in and just do it. 

Thank God it gave out on me when we were on the flat land near the vans and not at the top near the glacier. It just gave out without warning and without any pain. It just quit. At this point, I'm pretty sure I am done with my Around the World adventure. I had already booked a flight home for Thanksgiving. I was pretty sure I'd be staying put for the next few years to come. However, after just staying off of it, I regained some strength. I was home for the holidays and then came to Vietnam early February. I spent one month doing absolutely nothing. No tours. No walks around town. Nothing. And then Covid happened and I got even more time to chill and rest my knee. 

On a brighter note, I got to explore Tierra del Fuego National Park. The trails were beautiful! I'm pretty sure it's impossible to have air cleaner than what I experienced in this part of the world. All over the place, on anything that isn't moving, you'll see the growth of lichen. This lichen can only grow in the purest air environments. 


I spoke to a local university photography class! These guys were prepared! They had already seen my website and I was there to talk for 3 hours about my photography and give a them a foreigner's perspective on cameras, technique, and photographic art. I was unprepared. I thought I was going there for a totally different purpose. When I entered and saw the room full of students, I apologized for interrupting before I realized all those students were there for me. My next surprise was that half my time would be answering questions about my macro vulva art. They were not malicious or mean, and no one maligned me for my art. They asked questions! They wanted to know "why", what influence did I feel it had on women, and even tougher... how it reconciled with my faith (because they read my bio). I spent 90 minutes talking about vaginas to photo art students. THAT was a first. 

Javier taught me so much about Ushuaia. I saw a lot of white people that I thought were European tourists. Nope. They spoke Spanish! 3000 Italians immigrated to the other side of the mountains into Ushuaia on two boats and settled that area late 1940's. But while that is part of the history, 60% of all Argentinians nationwide also have Italian ancestry. I was privileged to have dinner with a film crew that was doing a documentary on the last living inhabitants that arrived there on the ships. 


Two other things I learned about is first, how bad the North American beaver population has exploded there and wrecking havoc over the entire region. Beavers are not native to this area and they have no natural predators to keep their population in check. They were brought in in the mid 1940's hoping to profit from fur trapping. That didn't happen. These bad boys are devastating Tiera del Fuego. Not only do they fell trees to eat the leaves and build dams, but they also kill of trees and vegetation by flooding huge areas with their dams. 

I also got a chance to try Mate, "...a is a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink. It is made by soaking dried leaves of the holly species Ilex paraguariensis in hot water and is served with a metal straw in a container typically made from a calabash gourd." - wikipedia. I liked that it was something I could drink that did make me want to put sugar in it. I didn't feel the need to. I'm a country boy from Texas. Our tea is cold, iced, and sweeter than raw honey. 

I hope to return to Ushuaia and also see more of Argentina. 







27 February 2021

FIVE Things You Probably Didn't Know About Hanoi

This post should probably be titled, "Five Things *I* Didn't Know About Hanoi". I have been here exactly one year as of this month. In this time, I have come to have a deep appreciation for this country, it's culture, and it's people. I have been exposed to so many different traditions and ideas, but I decided to do a post about 5 particular things I found to be quite astonishing about this city in Vietnam.

So here are FIVE things I found out after arriving:

1. Colombia isn't the only Coffee Mecca. Yep, Vietnam, too!

Okay, this one is more about Vietnam as a country than Hanoi, but it was still a huge shocker to me to learn this. Brazil is actually, the biggest exporter of coffee, but most everyone is familiar with Colombian coffee. No. 2 behind Brazil is, you guessed it... VIETNAM! Check out this article on it... => History of Vietnamese Coffee. I have NOT tried Egg Coffee just yet, and I still drink hella Americano. That's primarily because I still prefer larger quantities of coffee than just a swallow in a shot glass.

A little fancy maybe... photo by Fiammetta Mancini

2. Long Bien Bridge was built by the same company that made the Eiffel Tower.

It is a common misconception that Gustave Eiffel designed the bridge, but this is not true. The same company... yes. DaydĂ© & PillĂ© of Paris designed and built it, but Eiffel was not involved. Long Bien bridge opened in 1902 at almost 2300 meters long after about 3 years of construction. It spans the Red River and was bombed 14 different times during the war. It is no longer used for automobile traffic today. Only trains, bikes, and pedestrians cross this bridge now. 


3. John McCain has a memorial next to the lake he fell into after being shot down.

This one was sort of huge for me. I had just visit the War Museum a day or two before visiting the McCain Memorial. As an Army Veteran, I grew up trained by Vietnam war vets. When I enlisted, I was issued the same gear they used in Vietnam. I saw the PRC-77 radio I used in that museum, along with the same M113 armored personnel carriers I drove. My jungle boots were in a display case there. It was eerie. 

I visited there with my British friend Richard and his Vietnamese girlfriend, Trang. After leaving the museum, he told me about the John McCain Memorial site. I passed by it at least once a week and never knew it was there. It was nearby and I visited it the next day. I wasn't sure how to think of it. The late Senator and former POW returned to Vietnam several times in his effort to strengthen Vietnam/US relations. In 2009 he visited the memorial. To me, the statue depicts a defeated, kneeling figure. I saw it as more celebratory that he was caught than honoring the improved relations, but I could be wrong in that. 


4. The Lotus Flower is not just for decoration!

The aquatic pink lotus flower is the national flower of Vietnam, but it is more than something pretty to gaze upon. I had no idea, but it is also an edible plant. The flower, the stem, the seeds, and the roots have all been part of a cuisine or recipe ingredient. A lady on a plane gave me a seed pod and I ate the seeds incorrectly at first. I didn't peel off the green casing around the seed. I had downed about 5 of them before she corrected me. But after getting down to the actual white nut underneath, it was quite good. I haven't had lotus flower any other way beyond that, however. 


5. The Coronavirus has been checked better than most any other country in the world!

Make no mistake. Vietnam has been on top of this Covid situation since DAY 1. From the very first infected citizen, they took measures to protect it's densely packed 100 million population. Aggressive quarantine and contact tracing has kept case and death numbers down better than almost anywhere else in the world. A new wave recently brought us to just over 2400 cases. Not 24 Thousand... 24 HUNDRED. There have been a total of 35 deaths that all occurred during the second wave back in July/August 2020. The preventative measures have been exemplary. The country remains on a new entry visa lockdown, but we are free to travel within the country. International flights have been allowed in under the most strict circumstances... none of which is for tourism. 

In Late March 2020, I came up as a possible exposure contact (F2) and had to quarantine. Fortunately, I had great accommodations, food, and a hotel staff that treated me respectfully.

Quarantine breakfast

Quarantine room at Halais Hotel in Hanoi


23 January 2021

Three Years in the Making and New Priorities

 

Vincinguerra Glacier hike, Ushuaia, Argentina November 2019

You can never ever... like EVER really know how things are going to conclusively work out. Try as you might, the world around you could give two cents about you and your "plans". Eighteen months is what I had imagined this trip taking me. All I wanted to do was tour Central and South America. But the question popped into my head... why stop there, at the end of Argentina? I had no good answer, but more than a hundred reasons to keep going. But you've probably heard this story. So instead of looking back, this time... let's look ahead!

In my last blog post, I asked the question, "What Are You Going to Do Now?", given the nature of all the changes that... essentially, the world... has been subjected to. It's a valid question! Some of you already know. You've adapted already or your current situation is built/designed already to handle these hectic times. If your business or job was predicated on working from home, count your blessings. If your business is 100% travel related, you'd better do something. 

Vincinguerra Glacier hike, Ushuaia, Argentina November 2019

As we move forward, we hear terms like "the new normal", suggesting that life as we know it has died and will forever be relegated to talk in the taverns of how we USED to do things. Sort of how we maybe discuss today of life before the internet, emails, and iPhones. Personally, I do think things will return to pre-2020, just as life did after the last severe global pandemic in 1918. It may take all of 2021 or even into next year before we see Covid-19 as a thing of the past. We'll learn from it. New regulations and oversight will emerge on how we travel. Those are the things we'll have to get used to. Just like 9/11, we got used to taking our shoes and belts off for airport security. We expect to do that now, but we still travel.

But we have to make it to that point of "normality" again. (Side note: I hate that word.) And that brings me back to that last post question. What are you going to do now? Looking ahead, I can say that I am grateful to be where I am. It wasn't by design, I can assure you. I don't take credit for riding out this pandemic in Vietnam, one of the safest places to be in the world. I'm here and it helps being in a place where living expenditures are a quarter of that in the US. I know what you're saying. My mission is to backpack around the world! I get that. Reread the opening paragraph. CHANGE! Priority number one for me is to make my opportunities here. I'm looking into endeavors that will allow me to stay a couple years here. Yuuup... YEARS. Plural. 

I can't see "normalcy" in 2021. And I don't like the idea of basing my life on waiting for it. So I will make my opportunities, seek my happiness, and do what I think is right for me based out of where I am, right here in Hanoi, Vietnam. Hanoi has a sort of hold on me. When I thought about leaving, something seemed to always snatch me back. I'm not talking about fear of the unknown. No, I've returned for practical reasons. The people, the places, the city itself. I'm gradually understanding it. Ergo, I may as well get comfortable, stable, and start finding my opportunities here. 

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse, built in 1920

I was all set to begin launching Wide World Terrell, a new content platform that would concentrate more on travel and ACCENTED with photography. It's still in development, but I'm holding on to it right now. Wide World is suspended until further notice and it's just going to be Wide Hanoi or Wide Vietnam, at most. Maybe I will introduce you to a black man's musings in the most promising locales in Southeast Asia. The important part for me right now, is that I'm committed to being here, as opposed to moving anywhere else. 

Next on agenda is getting my body right. I did not blog between November 20, 2019 and January 20, 2020. I did not cover any of my time in Argentina. Apologies. I spent the majority of October and November in Ushuaia, Argentina. I had a beautiful experience there and got some great photos. I'm going to talk about it more in the next or a future blog post. However, one particular event almost changed the course of all my travel plans. Towards the end of my trip, I chose to hike the Vinciguerra Glacier, right there on the outskirts, north of Ushuaia. I took a chance. Got some great shots, THOROUGHLY enjoyed the experience! BUT... man I ripped up my knee on the way down.

I am not really sure how much I've talked about my military injuries on this blog. Usually, I don't want to bring up those kind of personal hardships, but I think I will in the future. Maybe they can be helpful to someone. But I went home to the US for the holidays, not knowing if I would leave again anytime soon, have to get surgery, or what. I had moved from the VA hospital in Nevada to the one in Texas and getting set up in a new spot was not anything that was going to happen quick. 

Snow storm in Ushuaia, a few days after arrival. No Black and White conversion here. 

Instead, I found that I was able to walk around casually and decided that I would take a chance to travel. My strategy was to just be careful and see how I could heal on my own. Maybe come back in two years to repair it. Yeah... then Covid came. I was good for a while, but dagnabit... things changed about two months ago, where I began having problems again. So I have to make some lifestyle changes. I sort of need this knee! So I'm going to do some conditioning on my own, first. And then as I get stabilized in Vietnam, I'm going to seek care outside the VA and get medical advice here. 

So that's the plan. Get comfortable in Vietnam. Generate new opportunities. Get healthy! I'll talk about Argentina maybe next time, but meanwhile, enjoy the pics. 


11 January 2021

What Are You Going to Do Now?

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

 “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.” 
– Nelson Mandela

With respect to photography... Nudes, Travel, and Change seem to be ongoing themes in my blog posts. Nudes and travel are what this blog are all about. However, the element of change works it's way in there like mortar between bricks. Change is what makes the Nude and Travel bricks in photography either stronger or weaker. Right now, I don't get to shoot nudes that much. The change in the travel industry has lessened my ability to travel. But it may be something different for you if you shoot wildlife or sports, for instance. Regardless of the genre, change will help you grow in your chosen field or it will make you quit it.

Change is not all bad. We dislike it because it robs us of options and choices. It takes away the comfortable and familiar and replaces it with "different". It can be inconvenient or it can be insurmountable and thus forces us to adjust or choose to do something else. Regardless, we are left with something unfamiliar to what we are accustomed to and no longer have the ease of routine and familiarity that we used to.

Twenty Twenty-One is upon us and brings with it Winds of Change more than any other year since any of us have been alive. Americans will soon have a new resident of the White House and if the recent course of events tell us anything, challenges indeed lay ahead. There is a vaccine for Covid-19 now, but travel still remains an interrupted and unpredictable affair. Therefore, the question I am asking is, what are you going to do now?

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

I'm not just asking rhetorically. I'm interested in knowing YOUR plans. Maybe you can impart some wisdom to me. As for me? Umm... well, I wanna continue to remain in Vietnam and work on some personal development. Taking lots of pics goes without saying. I still need to find my epic shot here. But yeah, hopefully I can get some stability. I'd like to remain for another two years and really search this place out in more depth both photographically and understanding the culture. If I get residency, I'll take some classes to learn Vietnamese. 

How do you carry on with your photographic career? Will you find something else to do for a while? Has this pandemic affected your ability to shoot, (whether you earn a living at it or not)? I know I have lots to figure out. Photo sales for me have been non-existent for a year almost. I read a recent blog post of another travel blogger whose entire income is derived from booking his guided travel tours. There are none for him right now. So what happens if the travel industry doesn't pick up this year? I wonder. He's not the only one in this predicament. How does the industry shift to something more survivable? Or hold out until it is better? 

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley

It's my hope that none of us put down the camera. I pray we keep shooting. Make money at it or not, I don't think we can afford to forget the pure joy of photography. Maybe we are not selling or printing much. Maybe we aren't getting the gigs. But I think there are still things to do. I got a cousin who's on a rampage right now in Texas as she's BUILDING and becoming stronger in her photo game. That tells me there are still opportunities. But don't go flooding Texas. Be worth your salt and find those opportunities where you are. Money or no. 

Now is definitely a good time to advance your skills. Take online courses. Improve your lighting ability. If there is ONE area of photography that I KNOW people consistently neglect, it is LIGHTING! Don't give me that natural light shooter BS. I've been around long enough to know most people fear flash or think it's too complicated and expensive. EVEN if that were the case, I've still seen people misuse natural lighting. Sometimes they don't take advantage of using it at the right time or they don't know how to block or bounce light with flags or reflectors. Natural light shooters should know a little something about light direction, intensity, and color. Is the light hard or soft? How can you use shadows? Are the highlights too strong? See, it's more than just cameras and lenses and shooting while the sun is up.

There's lots to learn for everyone. I still feel so dumb about a lot of things. I hope 2021 brings a new hope for all of us. 

My Excellent Panda, Copyright 2013 Terrell Neasley


20 December 2020

On the Passion for Travel and the Changing World

 

Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

My mother recently sent me something regarding a pilgrimage letter by a woman named Egeria. It's about her insatiable desire to make a religious trek to Israel and document her experience for people she left at home. The author used her venture as the premise of his article which focused on people's need... no, passion to go out and see the world, to know unknown places, and journey beyond familiar horizons. 

Of course, my mother thought of me when she came across this in some of her Bible studies. Most people associate travel with a vacation. For Egeria, this is a way of life and a means to an end. Travel, in and of itself, is not the main goal. Her desire was not the journey... at least not as I interpret it. The goal was Israel. The means was the pilgrimage. Ergo, travel is the means to accomplish her objective.

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

Sometimes it is solely about the destination. I've often said, the only thing that sucks about travel is the actual travel. In so many cases this is true. Unless you have posh means to do so, that will be the reality of the majority who don't. The experiences WHILE you travel are the moments that make the reality of travel worthwhile. The culmination of the destination and the experiences enroute will dictate whether you chose to endure the travel again. 

This time last year, I had returned to the US after two months in Argentina and a few weeks in Peru. I can tell you that flying through four countries and having to check in AND out of immigration and customs at each country sucked! Waiting in the long cattle lines to check in for your flight or get your visa stamped blows! The constant aggravation of wondering if you'll make your next flight and knowing there is a real and valid possibility you won't can be daunting. 

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

Or, how about taking a 14-hour shuttle that is filled beyond the seating capacity. Yes, this is the case. I've watched a woman trying to maintain some dignity while sitting in the lap of a man she had never met before. Six hours in, you would have thought they were a married couple as she slept in his arms.

No, it's not always like that. I've had some pleasant experiences as well, and its usually because I had good company that made it all bearable. Although rare, there have been some circumstances where my means of travel was notably and memorably pleasant for one reason or another. I do not count on those situations being a regular occurrence.

I like to call this one, "The Schwarzenegger"
Art Model, @Kayci.Lee, ©2018 Terrell Neasley

Nonetheless, it is the passion for travel that makes us endure any of the hardships. Otherwise, I would have come home a long time ago instead of nearing 3 years on the road. Like Egeria, I try to document my experiences and write about the people I meet, cultures I learn about, and the myriad of unique places I visit and explore. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but let me be frank with you. A thousand words will never let you understand the uncertainty of sitting on cargo on the back of a commercial fishing boat in the middle of an unexpected storm at sea because its the only thing going out to the island you need to get to. An album of photos will not help you track the line of choices that led you to say yes to a group of Nicaraguan bikers when they ask you to go on an adventure with them 10 minutes after you meet them. And nothing the world has to offer will help you understand the feeling of abject loneliness that makes you question your decision to stay in a foreign country during a global pandemic. 

You must travel on your own and have your own experiences. Yours will be unique from mine. I have almost died on occasion... occasionS would be more accurate. But this is no more different than the same things that happens around you every day already. People  have traffic accidents, get robbed, and for one reason or another, people die every day. The world is changing. People are working and being educated remotely. The covers are being pulled back on a different way of life. New opportunities are afforded to more people to move beyond the traditional, the ordinary, and societal norms. How will you adjust, in order to, not just compete, but thrive? Will you continue to make buggy whips and then complain about losing your job?

Art Model, Jenny Copyright 2019 Terrell Neasley

I made a photobook once, called "Where I Have Been". I made it exclusively for my mother, because I know she will not ever get to see the top of a mountain. Therefore, I wanted her to see from the eyes of her own blood the world from a high above overlooking the magnitude of an immense valley. She does not see well. I will not get her to climb a mountain with me. However, now she can have a perspective of the world from eyes that she gave birth to. 

My point is that I know everybody can't do this. But there are many of you who have great eyes AND knees! You have your youthfulness, vigor, health, or whatever. Anthony Bourdain suggested to sleep on the floor if you have to, but find a way to travel! I'm not exceptional, but I know every one can't be like me. I made the choice to dump everything and be gone in pretty much a single day around the beginning of November of 2017. By January 7th, I was flying. That's drastic for a lot of people. I get that. That's just who I am. 

Art Model, @Athena Demos ©2019 Terrell Neasley

And I'm not even suggesting you travel right now! Or even outside the US, for that matter. What I am saying is that with the changing world, you can begin preparations NOW! You can make changes and learn the habits that will allow for a different lifestyle. If you do have a passion for travel, I can't think of a better time in your life than right now to begin. If you want my advice, don't worry about the money. Worry about getting rid of DEBT!! If you did want to travel right this very second, then yeah... it's possible. Many countries are opening up again, even for US citizens. It's a pain... but then again, I just told you that's the nature of travel. 

The world is changing. What changes are you willing to make?

16 November 2020

When an Art Model Dies: See Ya, Jessica...

 


“Remember that people are only guests in your story – the same way you are only a guest in theirs – so make the chapters worth reading.” 

― Lauren Klarfeld

I wasn't sure how or even if I wanted to write this post. But as one model friend of mine oft says, "Challenge Accepted." Over the last few years, specifically since 2017, I've had to deal with loss. I'm tired of it. I thank God that I'm not used to it. Death was never close to me until I was almost 30. People live long in my family. So you can imagine my shock when I lost my younger brother just two years ago. I still reel from that. Everything takes me back to his memory today. I have to turn away when watching something or reading a report about somebody losing a sibling. 

And there are friends that die. Some of these people are like family. They are not blood. And sometimes you don't even realize the magnitude of the loss right away. When my friend Jerry passed away 3 years ago, I went through a myriad of emotions from disbelief, anger, and grief. That incident, was one of the compelling factors that made me decide to take a road trip. The breakup with my girlfriend was another catalyst. Watching her drive away broke a little bit of something in me with the reality settling in that we were done as a couple. 

I've felt significant loss from people I have never known. On the evening of October 1st, 2017, a man decided to open fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, where I lived. He killed 60 people and wounded more than four or five hundred... I forget. But I don't forget crying practically all friggin' day on Oct 2nd when I woke up that morning to the news. I cried for people I had never known or met. Jerry's death, the decision to breakup, and this shooting all happened the same month. Yep. It was time for me to take a break. I never intended to be gone this long. My initial goal was to finish a trip my girlfriend and I started, touring Central America... I was going to surprise her to go into South America, too. Instead, I'd endeavor to do it alone.


I expected to be gone a year. I just wanted to see what that felt like. I had run across other travelers who had been gone for a year. But a year turned into 18 months. Then it became a 3-year plan to continue around the world. Then somebody told me it was impossible to go around the world in 3 years. I said, you're right. Better make it 5 years. Two years after that, I said my 5-year plan technically begins here in Vietnam. Now I've been here for 9 months amid a global pandemic and feel like the clock has stopped. I should just say, I'll come back when I come back.

“The sorrow we feel when we lose a loved one is the price we pay to have had them in our lives.” 

― Rob Liano

And then there is the loss of a model. This one is new to me. Everything is different and it's a relationship that the majority of people will never get to appreciate, much less experience. I photograph nude women for my art. I don't just click and shoot glamour. I don't do this like some sort of impersonal assembly line of models. This is my art. Successful shoots for me require a certain synergy and almost like an exchange of pieces of souls. I give a little bit and I am given a little bit. It's a collaboration. 

Because they are naked, I know these women quite intimately and a different sort of relationship is defined. It's not necessarily a passionate relationship, but we both pour out our passion and intimacy into the art. I can tell you that I have known certain things about my models that their boyfriend or husbands may not have ever guessed because I have to pay attention and I try to listen. I am not always successful in this. I am a man. I am prone to fail in this regard, but it's a skill I try to hone. 

Sometimes there is an insecurity not revealed to anyone else but an art photographer. Secrets get exposed when all layers down to the skin are abandoned. There is a trust bond that is formed like the hardening of concrete. It is mixed and then poured out. With a little time, it hardens and becomes resilient and ever enduring. From that point on, we're written in stone. 


I haven't seen Jessica in years. She moved away with her daughter six or seven years ago. She was a wild and crazy soul... the type to drive topless in a convertible. She was unpredictable. I never knew what I was going to get from her, but that's how you learn to love her. You expect, and thereby appreciate the unexpected like a box of chocolates. Such a stunning woman. She walked into the camera store where I worked once wearing hardly anything and you'd have thought somebody had stopped time for all the patrons in the store. Thirty seconds before she walked in, the place was packed and the staff was overwhelmed. EVERYthing calmed down when her foot crossed that threshold. There was peace in the valley and nobody minded waiting for service at all. People were suddenly polite to one another, offering to let someone else in front of them in line to check-out. 

She had that affect on people. A captivating smile and legs like a staircase. Whatever you were busy with became less important than the desire to know her story. She wasn't perfect. She could be a pain, too. But like I said... you expect the unexpected, so the pain never lasted or cut too deep. It was always superficial. It took a little bit to learn to say "no" to her. I could not get away with the same things she could. And I don't play where safety is concerned. I've had to JUST SAY NO to many models when I felt doing something compromised safety. I had to be on my toes with Jessica. 

However, even with the span of time of not seeing her, learning of her loss still hit hard. It was... I mean... damn. I hadn't seen her in years, but we still talked. Oddly enough we had just talked two or 3 times right before she reportedly died. It's like one second a person is right there and then they vanish before your eyes. My brother was right there and suddenly he wasn't. It catches you unawares. The art nude model-photographer relationship is just different. Nothing about it seems remotely believable. It doesn't subscribe to societal norms. Jessica was that big bright star burning hottest. But these stars are always gone too soon. I am grateful to her. Thank you, Jessica. And to her sister, I am grateful to you for the news. God keep you, bless you, and may He always favor that little girl.